If you’ve been to our house, you may already know that we record and “produce” a lot of home movies for our own offline private viewing. Daily movies, vacation videos, random films, and other fun thing captured in high definition.
Over the years the production value on these has increased, largely due to a lot of practice putting them together by your’s truly. And to make them “fancier” we’ve got into the habit of adding our own little “Family Features” bumper to the front of those videos. A bumper is a few second clip that shows off the video like we’re some little studio putting these things together. It’s fun.
Part of my inspiration to learn the 3D animation software Blender was that I had the idea of producing a 3D animated bumper. I’ve got a few ideas, but the process isn’t nearly as simple as you might expect. I’ve got those ideas in the works, but the most time intensive part by far has been the rendering.
This first attempt took 9 hours to render, and though it is a little simple I like the idea of adding some kind of personalization into the clip: as you can see, I textured the cubes with photos from my collection:
After enjoying some blueberry pancakes, Claire excitedly hauled the computer back down to the basement and helped me set up another episode and recorded installment of our Let’s Play Minecraft videos for her channel. She’s very proud, by the way.
The problem, however, becomes one of resources. In Minecraft there is a kind of stretch of time early in the game, after you have completed your initial gathering and shelter set up phase, where you are really stuck just grinding out some time gathering even more resources and establishing the ability to generate building supplies.
This can be really boring. It is probably even more boring to watch. And we kinda hit it in episode 4.
Not that this episode is boring, but in it I acknowledge a few times the need to spend some time (unrecorded time) chopping stone and growing trees so that we can actually do some builds.
That is going to be between episode 4 and 5… definitely. In the meantime, enjoy episode 4.
It’s still really cold outside, and having looked out the window –and at my phone for all the people who were skipping out on the morning run– I told Claire we could make another couple Minecraft videos instead.
Plus, YouTube had unblocked my account (huzzah!) so after a day of delay we seemed to be back in business.
Our plan is make (at best) a new 20 minute video every week. That’s not tough, finding twenty minutes to record yourself playing a video game. What is going to be tough is keeping my partner on track and from getting to wired up while recording.
I mean, check out when she breaks into song part way through Episode 3:
After a hearty breakfast of homemade pancakes, we went back into the basement to record another episode in “Thirty Below” — our peaceful-survival world that will hopefully turn into a regular series.
I can tell that one video every week or so is going to be close to the max on this project. Her energy wanes faster than mine. I spent ten minutes in-game pre-recording un-lost-ifying her and getting her back to our little house.
And then we started again… Unfortunately, as you start a new world, there is lots of little bits of housekeeping and resource gathering to be done. This episode is mostly that. Finding some wood. Looking for iron ore. Clearing some land to build on later. And lots of jibber jabber from an eight-year-old and her dad.
Claire woke me up at 6am because I’d promised her that we would FINALLY start recording for her YouTube channel this morning.
Aren’t parents supposed to be able to sleep in on Saturday morning? I’ve still been nursing the tail end of this cold, not because I’m really sick, but because this cough just doesn’t seem to want to go away. I feel fine… just with the coughing and throat clearing.
Anyhow, we launched into a new world and started exploring… and then Claire got lost just as we were trying to find a good place to sign off.
I’d be remiss if after a full year of taking daily video clips of my family and friends I failed to make at least a small note of it here.
Of course, I’d love to post the final result, but as you can imagine having spent the three hundred and sixty-five consecutive days grabbing “at least 5 seconds” of video, and trying to make that video somewhat (if only partially) representative of the day we experienced, those video clips contain a cast of roughly one hundred visibly identifiable people (and countless more who I don’t know or who show in backgrounds) and almost certainly one of those folks (or their kids) would have an objection to suddenly starring in a YouTube clip.
Plus, y’know… copyrighted music.
So I won’t post it. And you’ll just have to know that taking daily five-second videos was a more time-consuming chore than you might expect from just thinking about it. I did it once in 2013, took a year off and did it again in 2015. Karin is already asking me about 2017.
The long weekend afforded me the time to sit in front of the computer, piece together the last few monthly videos that consist of daily, five-second clips strung together with a single-song soundtrack. They get watched and re-watched a lot around our house. I also had a free three-hour (yes, really) time-slot to finish piecing together the grand opus for the year, the pearl necklace of 365 one-second video clips strung back to back into a nearly-seven minute video of the year compressed into a blur of action mashed against the many mundane moments into a summary of our 2015.
We have the video on our player for anyone who comes to the house and wants a peek. If I know you, there’s a 50/50 chance you’re in it (higher if we’re related.) I’ve also got it sitting on a private Google drive, so if you’re really interested, this is where you’d send me a PM and I’ll let you peek.
So, is it worth the effort of recording so much of your life? I think so. And you’ll learn a truckload about video production in the process. But it is an effort and I’m glad it’s 2016 if only because I can get through a full day without thinking about my daily video clip.
There must be something photogenic about the snow. For the third day in a row, I found myself out making winter videos, taking winter pictures, and generally enjoying the cold weather with a GoPro camera fastened to something or other. On Friday, I ventured out into the cold and took a “Let’s Run” video on the icy trails. On Saturday, I took the GoPro running again, but this time made use of the Gorillapod to prop it up in various snowbanks and do some staged running pics. And then today, Sunday, I took Claire and her cousins sledding on the big hill and took some pretty awesome sliding footage, including one of my father-in-law blowing a tire at full speed on the hill: as of right now that clip’s got about twenty-five likes on Facebook. But now I figure that if it takes a cold winter weekend to motivate me to do this kind of outdoor photo effort, I’ll take a few more days of chill, thanks.
I’ve been tracking my runs in Strava for a while now but I think one of the features that I use most often is the flybys. This is a little animated review of your route overlaid on a map which, though it itself would be pretty cool, has the added interesting factor of showing all the other random people who you may have encountered on your run. In the context of a race, this is neat. But on just a training run it also leads to random finds. For example, today I went for a short run into the river valley with my camera. At one point I was taking some video and this guy on a bike rolled through my frame and I had to retake the shot. No problem. It happens. But reviewing the Strava flyby, that guy who bike-bombed my video was also tracking on Strava. This is not useful information, but it is interesting to poke through and see what someone else was up to leading up to and following that fleeting and glancing encounter on the trails. He was on the return leg of a ninety klick bike ride whereas I was geekily taking running video selfies under a bridge. I think he wins this round. And meanwhile I’ll need to keep sleuthing through Strava to find someone with a less interesting story than me.
It would have been obvious to nearly any parent: something was bugging her.
“You look so sad.” I nudged her to chat while she sat slumped in her seat and staring vacantly out the truck window. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing.” She pouted way too quickly, the inflection in her voice so obviously a cover up for the drama wrecking havoc through her little heart that I couldn’t help but pry a little deeper.
“Are you sure?” I prodded. “How was your day?” I had just picked her up from her summer camp, an all-day-care program offered by the same folks that ran her after-school daycare. Participation in this filled her days and meant that she got to spend the summer going to parks and field trips and swimming pools while we worked, all in the company of many of the same kids with whom she spent the rest of the year in more focused curricular activities. Many of the same kids, yes, but some extra staff meant that they took on some new kids as well.
“It was bad.” She said finally. “I had a bad day.” And I could almost hear the tear welling up behind the words.
new friends, old friends, bad friends, and blue friends
And then she proceeded to tell me the tale of her dramatic friendships torn asunder by the complexities only understandable by the minds of children: new friends, old friends, bad friends, and blue friends. It seemed that in an effort to be friends there was a disconnect between method and result. Tears did indeed follow, and by the time we arrived home, parked in the garage, and clambered into the house she had found her room, slammed her door, and accused me of both (a) failing to listen and (b) having so many friends that I couldn’t possibly understand.
I let her pout for a few minutes alone, and while I pondered I also thumbed through the remote on the television. An idea had struck me and in my temporary genius I searched YouTube for the term “how to make friends for kids” and scrolled through the results, landing on a curious selection that seemed to be either (a) a spot on parody of a 1950s film reel or (b) actually a 1950s film reel.
“Come watch this.” I called to her room, wagering on its quality before I could preview it.
“and Ginger wonders what it’s all about!”
As much as we try to be modern and sometimes frown down on the advice of the past in fear that can be irrelevant or crosses lines of attitude and opinion that are no longer socially acceptable, I think there is often still value to be found in the cracks of where antiquity and serendipity collide. The video we happened to watch pointed out some basic yet classic rules of “being a friend” –smiling, saying nice things, and just talking to people (to be specific)– all in that saccharine feel-good, suburban glow of a black-and-white-toned 1950s reel-to-reel film, rescued and posted online. We looked past that, and as fundamental and obvious as the rules it offered may seem, as parent to a kid in the modern world its easy to forget that old fashioned advice is not necessarily so bad or so plain… especially for a seven year old. A few days later I found her “making friends” checklist stuffed under her pillow.
Making friends doesn’t go out of style, it seems, and our great-grandparents generation may have still have a few things to teach us, even if it means hunting through the Internet to find it. Parents still need to find that balance between modern norms and antique insights, but whether it is the advice itself, or just the notion that some good ideas never go out of style, digging up gems from the past can occasionally pay off.
Lurking in the depths and hiding behind the corners of nearly every new game release or console update is the much-bantered question of game-play versus technology. Better tech, the industry that churns out new titles and toys would have us believe, is the cornerstone of better games.
Faster computing processing.
More graphical polygons.
Smarter opponent AI.
Smoother video frame-rates.
Each of these, as the marketing mantras repeat in their advertising, are the crux of a better experience, immersing the player deeper into the artificial reality transposed upon the players senses and enhancing the foundation of escapism promised by our electronic toys.
The opposing argument, of course, is that games are games. Making them prettier or smarter or filled with lens-flaring camera effects, no matter how pretty, does nothing to improve the game itself.
And true, there is a discussion to be had within the realm of understanding what makes for good play: a great story, a challenging premise, a clear objective, or the ability to repeat again and again and again in perpetuity that same experience (with potentially different results.)
Ultimately, as with any art form, the field of game development has seemingly matured to the point where its reach has encompassed millions of diverse and invested audiences, and with like-as-many preferences has made the search for a single answer to the question of “great games” moot. After all, how is it possible to define a great game when we cannot possibly hope to agree upon the definition of “game” let alone “great?”
As such, the answer to the question of technology may be linked to the very problem itself. Any human pursuit seems inexorably linked to two foundational aspects. First, it is linked to a respect of the the history of said pursuit. Second it is tied to the iterative future enhancement of the same.
Will not video games, then, be granted the same effort: a respect of the foundations of great game play, while exploring the potential for things yet unlocked and undiscovered? That discovery may not be twelve percent faster processing, nor may it reside in the effort to make the sweat of a digital character bead down his face more realistically, but the serendipitous treasures we find between those efforts –or a few steps further down the iterative path– maybe the ones worth searching for.